Friday, December 30, 2011

Frozen Fruit Cups

Deciding the menu for our Christmas meal was so fun for me.  The main course was lasagna so the side dishes needed to be light and not heavy.  Several years ago I found this easy recipe for frozen fruit cups.  It was the perfect way to serve fruit alongside the lasagna. 

2-10 oz. packages frozen strawberries or raspberries
2-6 oz. cans frozen orange juice, thawed
2-20 oz. cans crushed pineapple
1-16 oz. can mandarin oranges
1/3 cup lemon juice
6 bananas, sliced

Combine all ingredients. Do not drain fruit. Spoon mixture into muffin tins and freeze.

What was really a challenge was finding a way to stack three muffin tins in my above-the-refrigerator-freezer.  Waffles and ice cream are a good support system for frozen fruit!
Remove from freezer about 30 minutes before serving.

This makes about 30 fruit cups.

 I served ours in fancy parfait dishes.
I've enjoyed the left-overs for breakfast or mid-afternoon snacks.  Seems I have to eat my fruit to get to my ice cream!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Swedish Hugs

Cardamom cookies are one of the Christmas treats that have been a tradition in our family. My grandmother made candies and cookies each year that we considered ‘staples’ of our Christmas celebrations. Grandma passed away several years ago and many of those treats are no longer replicated. This year I decided to make Grandma’s Cardamom cookies.

Cardamom (also spelled cardamon) is a spice. Check the spice aisle in your local grocery store if you don’t have this in your spice collection.

Grandma handwrote copies of her favorite recipes for me. On the recipe card for these cookies, she wrote the name as “Swedish Hugs – Cardamom Cookies”. She never called them ‘Swedish Hugs’ so that made me giggle when I found the recipe card!

Swedish Hugs

1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup softened butter

Cream the sugar and butter.

1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream this together.

Sift together:
2 ¼ cup flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 ½ tsp. cardamom powder

Gradually add flour mixture to creamed mixture.

Add ¼ cup finely chopped pecans. 
Cover and chill the dough 20 to 25 minutes.

Roll dough into small balls and place on the cookie sheet 1 inch apart. Gently press a fork into the ball to flatten. I sprinkled colored sugar on the cookies for ‘decoration’

Refrigerate the cookies on the cookie sheet until dough is firm.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.. Grandma wrote: don’t over bake.
Swedish Hugs!  Enjoy these amazing bite-sized, spicy cookies!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Keep Your Focus

Did you have a nice Christmas? Was it filled with love, joy and peace? Was it filled with wonder? My Christmas was filled with those qualities and it continues. It continues because I don’t believe Christmas is one big event that you “have” and then it is over.

Preparing for Christmas was different for me this year. I have at least nine tubs of decorations for the tree and every room of the house. Several weeks ago as I started pulling the tubs out, I realized that I didn’t have to put up all of the decorations. As I came to that conclusion, peace washed over me. I pulled out four tubs and decided that whatever was in those tubs would be the decorations for this year. Side note: thankfully the Christmas tree lights were in one of the tubs! In past years it took me hours to days to put out all of the decorations. This year’s simplicity took me just over an hour to put up decorations. The tree has lights and balls on it and is 'simply' beautiful! 
Each of the gifts I chose to give this year was personal. I didn’t aimlessly wander through stores to buy something just to buy it. As I watched my family and friends open their gifts, love was in the room. It feels so good to give gifts that people ‘love’.

Christmas Eve was spent with The Husband’s family and joy was in the air. Christmas Day found my family traveling to my house for a day of festivities. Joy was in the air here, too. At each family gathering we were thankful to be together and enjoyed each other.

I totally understand how the Christmas season could become a burden. While riding the bus to work I heard stress in the words of the people sitting around me. Co-workers reported not getting everything done. Deadlines, crowds, travel, expectations, sickness and you know the rest; these things can cause stress and take the wonder out of this season.

If you felt stress over the past few weeks, may I give you a present today? Here it is:

Next year, keep your focus on what God did for you in every preparation for His Son’s birthday.

Every decoration you use in your home, every gift you purchase, every cookie you bake, every mile you travel is all to be done because Jesus was born. This is the season of celebration. Don’t forget: His birth, His life, His death and His resurrection. This season is about everlasting life!

I know that if you start praying now, asking Him to help you keep your focus on His birth, that next year’s Christmas will be filled with peace, joy, love and wonder. And what better gifts are those qualities to share with your family and friends! Believe me, you will have the most awesome Christmas if you keep your focus. I know, because I’m still celebrating! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Tonight is the second night of Hanukkah. Last night, we celebrated the beginning of Hanukkah with dear friends. Each year they celebrate this important festival as part of their heritage. We’ve had the privilege of celebrating with them for the past couple of years. The following will give you a simplified description of what Hanukkah is all about:

The holiday originated when Judah the Maccabee and his followers reclaimed the temple in the village of Modi'in from Syrian King Antiochus IV. The temple was cleansed and prepared for rededication. The Hebrew word Hanukkah means "dedication." When the sacred temple Menorah (candelabra) was relit, there was only enough sacred oil to burn for one day. Yet, according to tradition, the oil miraculously lasted eight days until more purified oil could be found. In remembrance, a candle is lit each of the eight days of Hanukkah. Children receive gifts of gelt (in remembrance of the coins minted by the new independent Maccabee state) or money and play games of dreidel (a spinning four-sided top.) The tradition of receiving a gift on each of the eight days of Hanukkah is fairly recent. The holiday is commonly referred to as Hanukkah, or the more traditional spelling of Chanukah.

Three of the common traditions were incorporated into the evening’s activities: lighting the menorah, spinning the dreidel and eating lots and lots of latkes.

Rabbi David Freedman brought his menorah and Rebecca, our hostess, had the family menorah. Rabbi David lit the tallest candle, called the Helper candle, and used it to light the first candle of Hanukkah. He sang a blessing in Hebrew as he lit the candle. It was a goose-bump moment for me to hear the Hebrew and hear the interpretation. 

A popular Hanukkah game is spinning the dreidel, which is a four-sided top with Hebrew letters written on each side. Several dreidels were on the table for us to play with during our meal. Gelt, which are chocolate coins covered with tin foil, are part of this game. Dove chocolates were this year’s gelt.

Since Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of oil, it is traditional to eat fried foods such as latkes. Latkes are pancakes made out of potatoes and onions, which are fried in oil. We ate ours with sour cream and applesauce. Ooh la la we all ate lots and lots of latkes!

And then we played with the kids and enjoyed each other's company.

Shalom.  Peace.  God's peace is amazing.  May you experience His peace during this Hanukkah season.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rest Again and Again

On December 1 I wrote this post on Rest.

Eight days later, on December 9, here is the devotional that appeared on our Max Lucado daily devotional:

God knows us so well.  He can see the store owner...thinking "Somebody needs to work that day.  If I can't, my son will."  So God says, nor your son.  "Then my daughter will."  Nor your daughter.  "I guess I'll have to...find some stranger to help me."  No, God says.  One day of the week you will say no to  Still we object..but God silences...all [our objections]...[His] message is plain:  "If creation didn't crash when I rested, it won't crash when you do." 

Repeat these words after me:  It is not my job to run the world.

Yesterday, my December 19 devotional from Joyce Meyer had this message:

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest.  [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.]  Matthew 11:28

Getting stress out of your life takes more than prayer alone.  You must take action to make changes and stop doing whatever is causing the stress.   You can learn to calm down in the way you handle things.

Jesus invited us to come to Him if we are overburdened.  He promised to refresh us if we are weary, worn out, or overworked.  Take time to go to Jesus anytime you feel that you are going over the edge of peace and into the pit of stress.  Let His presence refill and refresh you.

I am not sure these messages are always for me.  I feel REST these days.  Perhaps there is one of you out there that reads my blog that needs to find REST.  May these words be amazingly refreshing for you.  May God reveal Himself to you in these words.  Reach out to Him.  Ask Him to give you the strength to make the changes you should be making to find REST.

God bless you!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Warmth in the Cold

It has snowed here in The Frozen Tundra. 
A beautiful carpet of white has been laid.
Along with the snow, comes cold weather.
We have a wood-burning fireplace in our home.
Last summer, The Husband found rotten wood under the non-permanent
siding on the chimney.
What a mess!
 The dark places on the photo show water damage to the chimney.
We hired a repair crew and for two days in the fall, they pulled off damaged, water-logged wood and replaced it with nice wood (can wood be nice?).  All of the work was done form scaffolding along the side of our house.

The work table for the team was set up along the boulevard.  Some folks stopped looking for a cool drink since we had the kool-aid sitting on the table!

New, permanent siding was added to the chimney and it really looks nice.

With the cold weather here to stay for awhile,
I'm grateful our fireplace can be used to warm us up!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Where is Jesus

Jesus is displayed throughout my house in Nativity sets.

But more importantly, He is displayed in the lives of my family.

Jesus is here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dancing With God

The following is a word of encouragement that I've saved because it is a 'good word'.  I wish I could remember where I first read it as I would like to give credit to whoever wrote it.  May this be a blessing to you today:

Dancing With God

When I meditated on the word Guidance, I kept seeing "dance" at the end of the word. I remember reading that doing God's will is a lot like dancing. When two people try to lead, nothing feels right. The movement doesn't flow with the music, and everything is quite uncomfortable and jerky. When one person realizes that and lets the other lead, both bodies begin to flow with the Music. One gives gentle cues, perhaps with a nudge to the back or by pressing lightly in one direction or another. It's as if two become one body, moving beautifully. The dance takes surrender, willingness, and attentiveness from one person and gentle guidance and skill from the other. My eyes drew back to the word Guidance.

When I saw "G" I thought of God, followed by "u" and "i." "God," "u" and "i" dance." God, you and I dance. As I lowered my head, I became willing to trust that I would get guidance about my life. Once again, I became willing to let God lead.

My prayer for you today is that God's blessings and mercies will be upon you on this day and every day. May you abide in God as God abides in you. Dance together with God, trusting God to lead and to guide you through each season of your life.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hotel Adventure

Kidlet Three's hockey team participated in a hockey tournament this past weekend in a Far-A-Way city.   The city was So-Far-Away I had to take a day of vacation from work and Kidlet Three had to get out of school early so we could start the travels.

When we travel, we always over pack. 


As we pulled out of town on Friday you would have found the following in the back of the van:
  • 5 Deal or No Deal bags
  • 4 bags of licorice
  • 3 suitcases
  • 2 hockey sticks
  • and one overstuffed hockey bag
Plus the huge tub of snacks and food, the CPAP machine for The Husband and a 12-pack of pop oh, and the laptop and the PS3 and the Christmas cards name it, we probably had it!

Arriving and checking in at the hotel, we were given the keys to our second floor room.  We grabbed the luggage carts from the front lobby and piled our bags onto it.  Wheeling it back into the hotel we started the search for the elevator. 

There was no elevator in the hotel! 

All of our stuff had to be carried up the stairs in a multitude of trips. I guess the luggage cart was for the people on the first floor to use...

In our room I began organizing.  I unpacked my suitcase and organized the other bags in the room.  Then it was time to leave for the first of five tournament hockey games. 

We arrived back to the hotel around 10:30 Friday night.  The boys were allowed to mingle in the hallways until 11 p.m. by the hotel management.  The Husband, Kidlet Three and I were tucked all snug in our beds by 11:30 p.m.

A short time later I was awakened with the words "OH NO...OH NO...OH NO" coming from the bathroom.  Flying from the bed I arrived outside of the bathroom door to find The Husband standing in water that was pouring out of the toilet in a steady stream.  The water was flowing toward the carpeted floor.  "Grab the towels" I yelled at The Husband and the ran to telephone the front desk. 

The front desk man brought a dozen towels and the toilet plunger.  But the toilet didn't want to stop running and the water had to be turned off to the toilet.  Thankfully, it was clean water!  The front desk man was not able to fix the toilet so offered us a different hotel room. 

At 12:45 a.m. we were all out of bed, grabbing the
  • 5 Deal or No Deal bags
  • 4 bags of licorice
  • 3 suitcases
  • 2 hockey sticks
  • and one overstuffed hockey bag
 and all of the other stuff and we moved two rooms down the hallway.

I was amazed that none of us complained as we made the trips back and forth from the water-logged room to the new room.  And finally so thankful to snuggle back into bed for an uneventful night's sleep.

It was definitely an AMAZING adventure to find a hotel with no elevator, to have a toilet overflow and to move rooms in the middle of the night. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gluten Free French Silk Pie

I love to bake and cook from scratch. With Kidlet One's diagnosis of celiac disease, I've had the opportunity to search for new recipes. For Thanksgiving I wanted to have pie that she could eat and, thankfully, I found this website:   The Art of Gluten Free Baking. The pie crust recipe on this website makes two crusts which worked great for me. From the two crusts I made a pumpkin pie and a French silk pie. Both were delicious. Here is the recipe for the crust and the French silk pie.

Gluten Free Pie Crust

2 1/3 cup gluten free all-purpose flour
½ t. xanthum gum
1 T. sugar
¼ t. salt
1 cup butter, cold and cut into pieces
1 T. vinegar
5-7 T. cold water
Tapioca flour for rolling out the crust

Place flour, gum, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Mix together with a spoon until combined. Add butter pieces to the dry ingredients.   
With fingers, start rubbing together the butter and the dry ingredients. Be patient. The mixture should resemble “wet sand mixed with pebbles”.
Add the vinegar and mix with fingers. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time. I actually used 3-4 T. of water, just enough for the dough to hold together but isn’t wet. Divide the two into two equal pieces, shape into discs and wrap each disc in plastic wrap.
Refrigerate the discs 20 to 30 minutes, until cool and firm but not hard.  
 Sprinkle tapioca flour on the rolling surface and the rolling pin.
Place the chilled dough on the floured surface. Sprinkle tapioca flour on the dough. The author of this recipe states that the key to success in rolling out gluten-free dough is to go slow. Use a light touch. Roll the dough into a circle three inches larger than the pie pan.
Roll the dough around the rolling pin to transfer to the pie pan.
Unwrap the dough from the rolling pin and gently press the dough into place.
Around the rim, turn the excess dough under and tear off any excess. I pinch the edges with my thumb.
Line shell with a double thickness of heavy-duty foil.
Bake at 450 degrees for 4 minutes. Remove foil and bake 2 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown. Cool on wire rack.     

FRENCH SILK PIE from Taste Of Home

2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 t. confectioners’ sugar

In a small saucepan, combine sugar and eggs until well blended.
Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture reaches 160 degrees and coats the back of a metal spoon.
Remove from heat. Stir in chocolate and vanilla until smooth. Cool to lukewarm, stirring occasionally.
In a small bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy.

Add cooled chocolate mixture; beat on high speed for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy.

In another bowl, beat cream until it begins to thicken.
Add confectioners’ sugar; beat until stiff peaks form. Fold into chocolate mixture.
Pour into cooled, baked crust. Chill at least six hours before serving.

 I added a few dollops of whipping cream and sprinkled chocolate chips onto the whipped cream.
An amazingly delicious pie that no one knew was gluten free!